Ministerial Committee report on 38, Oxley Road

Hsien Yang: Mr Lee's wishes not accurately represented in report

Mr Lee Kuan Yew's daughter Lee Wei Ling, in a separate Facebook post, said her father was as direct as her, and had made absolutely clear what he wanted done with the house.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew's daughter Lee Wei Ling, in a separate Facebook post, said her father was as direct as her, and had made absolutely clear what he wanted done with the house.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
DR LEE WEI LING
DR LEE WEI LING
MR LEE HSIEN YANG
MR LEE HSIEN YANG

Younger siblings respond to panel, which says their statements will be lodged with the Cabinet Secretary

Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his sister Lee Wei Ling have taken issue with the report by the Ministerial Committee on 38, Oxley Road, saying that it does not accurately represent the wishes of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

In a statement posted on Facebook yesterday, the younger Mr Lee said the committee pointed to certain statements made by the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew as evidence that he was prepared to accept options other than demolition of his house.

"That claim is misleading," said Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

"In context, it is clear that our father was not endorsing alternatives to demolition, but was forced to consider them because of Loong's and Ho Ching's insistence that the Government would not respect our father's dying wish," he added, referring to his older brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and sister-in-law Ho Ching.

He maintained that the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew never accepted these alternatives, and merely set out what he wanted if the Government prevented his house from being demolished.

In a separate Facebook post, Mr Lee Kuan Yew's daughter Lee Wei Ling said her father was as direct as her, and had made absolutely clear what he wanted done with the house.

"He and Mama had long decided they wanted it demolished after they were gone," Dr Lee wrote.

WISHES WERE UNAMBIGUOUS

It would require unbelievable lack of intelligence or determined denial to not understand what Pa and Ma so unambiguously wanted. It seems to me my big brother and his committee have achieved that distinction with amazing ease.

DR LEE WEI LING

MISLEADING CLAIM

The Ministerial Committee on 38, Oxley Road now claims that these statements are evidence that Lee Kuan Yew 'prepared to accept options other than demolition'. That claim is misleading. In context, it is clear that our father was not endorsing alternatives to demolition, but was forced to consider them because of Loong's and Ho Ching's insistence that the Government would not respect our father's dying wish.

MR LEE HSIEN YANG, referring to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife.

LODGED FOR FUTURE REFERENCE

Both Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling's earlier statements, as well as their response dated April 3, 2018 will be lodged with the Cabinet Secretary, together with this statement, so that these too can be referred to by a future government.

THE MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE

"It would require unbelievable lack of intelligence or determined denial to not understand what Pa and Ma so unambiguously wanted. It seems to me my big brother and his committee have achieved that distinction with amazing ease."

The siblings were responding to the report released on Monday by the panel, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

The panel had set out three broad options for the house for a future government to consider - preserve it entirely, retain only the basement dining room and demolish the rest of the property, or demolish the property entirely.

Last evening, the committee issued a statement noting the statements by the Lee siblings. It said it had already "carefully weighed" the views expressed by the siblings, together with submissions from the parties in their personal capacities.

It reiterated that the options "are meant to help a future government make an informed and considered decision when the need arises".

It added that it relied on three key objective documents from Mr Lee Kuan Yew which "gave concrete expression to his thinking and wishes regarding the property" - his letter to the Cabinet in December 2011, redevelopment plans which he submitted to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in March 2012, and the demolition clause in his last will in December 2013.

Disputing the committee's conclusion, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said his late father wanted demolition "unwaveringly". He cited an e-mail by his father to his children on Oct 3, 2011, in which Mr Lee Kuan Yew said that "Loong as PM has indicated that he will declare it a heritage site".

Wrote Mr Lee Hsien Yang: "In light of this false impression given by Loong, Lee Kuan Yew was forced to consider options other than demolition."

On the renovation plans submitted to the URA in 2012, he said: "Our father reluctantly went along only because he believed the Government already intended to thwart his hopes."

In its report, the committee noted that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had approved detailed plans to entirely overhaul the interior living areas while retaining the external structure and basement dining room.

It stated how PM Lee's wife, Madam Ho, had sent an e-mail on Jan 2, 2012 to Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the rest of the family about the plans.

A day later, Mr Lee Kuan Yew told Madam Ho via e-mail: "I have confidence in your judgment. Do what gives you maximum opportunities for later use."

Mr Lee Hsien Yang also cited how his father had said in his last will that "if our children are unable to demolish the house as a result of any changes in the law, rules or regulations binding them, it is my wish that the house never be opened to others except my children, their families and descendants".

The alternative options set out by the committee violate what Mr Lee Kuan Yew wanted if the house were not demolished, he said.

He also claimed that the committee had "relied extensively" on submissions by PM Lee, "even though he claimed to recuse himself from any discussions on 38, Oxley Road".

The last will - which was granted probate in October 2015 - is the full, final and legally binding statement of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's wishes for the house, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said.

"Combined with Lee Kuan Yew's numerous and unwavering public statements on the matter, there is more than enough documentary evidence for a future government to understand - and hopefully grant - our father's last wish," he added.

Noting these rejoinders from the two Lee siblings, the committee said in response that their statements will be lodged with the Cabinet Secretary for a future government to refer to.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2018, with the headline 'Hsien Yang: Mr Lee's wishes not accurately represented in report'. Print Edition | Subscribe